BY NOW YOU PROBABLY REALIZE that this website is about offering you an alternative to the habit of pushing away your difficult feelings. But if each of us is to “build body-links of hope in ourselves and in children,” to recall the title of this website, then we must find some way to make a 180 degree turn in how we relate to our difficult feelings. It’s learning how to be with your feelings in a more open, caring, and body-accepting way.
To move forward in our lives, we must learn to reverse what may be a long-standing pattern of relating to this more negative part of ourselves. The challenge is recognizing that these often old and difficult feelings we treat as enemies are, in fact, both friends and teachers! Psychological research, as well as everyday common sense, tell us that we can never become whole inside ourselves in the midst of those raging internal wars we so often create inside ourselves.
How to change an old habit, as well as develop a new way of relating, is the issue before all of us. The world we live in doesn’t know how to help us learn to take care of our tears and fears, let alone grow in our ability to listen to them as a precious part of ourselves.
The core issue, in learning to develop a fresh habit of caring for your difficult feelings, is finding some new way to say with your body, and not just with words and intentions: “You are not alone. I’m here. I care. I’m listening when you want to tell me your story.”
So, let’s begin!
(2) A Lesson from Walking in the Rain
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN out walking without an umbrella and it begins to rain. If there’s no shelter nearby, do you know the feeling of pulling your coat around your neck, walking faster, perhaps screwing your face up and squinting a bit? Have you sometimes sensed a tensing in your body, as though by tightening your muscles you could somehow shed the water better? You try to keep the rain and all that wetness outside you.
Carry this experience a bit further. Have you ever found yourself caught in an absolute downpour where there was no escape? At first you tried to stay dry, fighting against the wet. But soon it became hopeless. You could feel the water dripping under your collar. Your shoes started to squish inside. Everything eventually got absolutely soaked all the way through.
At that point, have you ever said to yourself, “Oh, what the heck!” and deliberately let go of trying to stay dry? Can you recall what it felt like just to walk in the rain without caring about getting wet?
THERE’S A LESSON to be learned from this. Your body is actually a marvelous teacher, if you know how to learn from it. The issue here is far more than walking tight or relaxed in the rain. Some of us rain on ourselves twenty four hours a day! We’re always running tight “inside” with painful issues we hold at arms length or feverishly try to control. Our bodies are chronically tense around certain relationships, situations, issues, and circumstances.
But the surprising thing is that your body already knows how NOT to be tense around whatever is between you and feeling all OK inside. It knows that as surely as it knows how to walk in the rain without tightening up.
But how can you avail yourself of such knowledge? How do you open a door and find your way into this new inner world?
The first part of a very short answer is to realize that, “You can’t THINK your way into your body.” Dr. Eugene Gendlin puts it another way:
“Knowing is not the process of changing.”
Information is never enough to bridge the gap, the chasm into actually being “IN” the experience of your body’s knowing. The change you seek lies not in your mind thinking differently about issues, but in allowing your body to teach you how to carry them in a different way!
To travel a road to this kind of transformation, you must set out on a highly personal journey, an inward quest for some teacher within your own body’s knowing.
(3) Exploring the Relationship with Yourself
LET’S BEGIN WITH A LITTLE EXERCISE to help you gather a piece of basic information about yourself. Allow a quiet moment to get some feedback from your own experience by responding to the following question:
- “What is my usual pattern of relating to my hurting, scary, angry, or confused feelings?”
- “What do I generally do when such feelings surface?”
Sit back and get in touch with what is probably a rather consistent behavioral habit. Don’t read further until you are satisfied that what you have identified feels on-target.
When you’re ready, continue reading below.
EACH OF US usually develops a pattern of numbing our difficult feelings, pushing them away, or in some way distracting ourselves from and denying them. We all have our chosen ways of doing this–taking an alcoholic drink, heading for the refrigerator or candy box, drugs, shopping, cleaning, or trying to get more control over something or somebody.
We indulge in more talking, more phoning, more sex, making more money, working too much, etc.. Eugene Gendlin calls these abortive strategems, “process-skipping.”
They take us away from an important inner process that needs to unfold before difficult feelings can be resolved inside us.
Before exploring a different way to be with such difficult feelings, let’s first take a moment to learn a little more about “process-skipping.”